Don’t Confuse Culture With Compliance

I don’t think anyone would argue about how important culture is to success. From family, to school, to business to country, culture, — the behaviors that are expected from the participants and the behaviors that are reinforced — creates success or failure.

We see and talk about this most often in sports. Sports allows us to see, in short order, the relationship between a great culture and success. We talk about the chemistry, the unselfish behavior, the team play etc. All of these are cultural elements.

The best and most recent example of a winning culture is the New England Patriots. Bill Belichick has built a culture on teamwork and unselfishness. The Patriots expect everyone to play multiple positions. They won’t bring on high-priced free agents etc. This strong culture has won them 3 Super Bowls in less than 10 years.

Jim Collins and Jerry Porras wrote, In Built to Last, about how culture was the key difference in company performance over the long haul.

Culture is important.

The problem with culture is it can’t be mandated. Culture is the voluntary behaviors people embrace and demonstrate. Culture is how people chose to behave. Culture is a choice.

Too often organizations mandate behavior in order to attain their desired culture. It doesn’t work that way. Culture is opt in.

Don’t confuse culture with compliance. If your employees are demonstrating the behaviors you are looking for but they’re doing it because it’s been mandated and doing it out of fear, you don’t have the culture you want, you have a culture of fear.

People don’t comply with a culture, they embrace it. Culture is how people chose to behave, good or bad. There is ALWAYS a culture. There no such thing a having no culture. There are bad cultures and good cultures, but a culture is always present.

As leaders it’s our job to create the culture we want. It’s up to the leaders to create an environment where people choose to participate. Leaders need to demonstrate the value of the culture, what people get by adhering, what the advantages are, what the disadvantages are etc. Leaders need to reinforce the behaviors they expect by rewarding those who exhibit them. The leaders need to demonstrate the behaviors themselves. Those who don’t choose to embrace them need to be moved out. The culture needs to be at the center of every new direction, every new product, every new hire, every promotion, every decision has to be measured against the culture.

By putting the culture at the center of business people begin to embrace it. They see why it’s important. They understand how it will benefit them. They understand why it’s in their best interest to participate and they choose to do so.

You can’t mandate culture. Yet, a good culture is critical to success.

Reaching goals, outperforming the competition, gaining market share, attracting employees etc. happens when you have a great culture. To have a great culture you have to define it, then you have to create an environment where people WANT to participate. If they don’t; making them, through compliance isn’t going to amount to a hill of beans.

Create success with the culture and the rest of the business becomes that much easier to manage.

Don’t confuse culture with compliance. People need to choose to participate not be forced. The best teams, groups, families, and companies choose to participate in a way that benefits the entire organization.

If people are complying, your not heading in the right direction.

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